Putting pen to paper in a digital world – the mental health benefits of journaling for young adults

by Tia

As the world becomes increasingly digital, many young adults grapple with mental health challenges aggravated by long periods of screen time and continuous digital interactions. Dealing with the pressures of social media, academic expectations, and the transition to adulthood are contributing to a mental health crisis.

Multiple studies have shown that journaling is a powerful and effective tool for navigating the complexities of modern life, particularly for young adults, according to Lillian Henderson, Marketing Director Southern and East Africa at BIC.

A study by the National Library of Medicine suggests that adolescents who spend more time online tend to report more symptoms of depression and anxiety, while conditions such as anxiety, depression, and stress are alarmingly prevalent among young adults. And the number of teens experiencing depression and anxiety has significantly increased in recent years, according to a 2024 study by the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

How journaling helps improve mental health

Healthline asserts that journaling provides a much-needed pause to help individuals deepen their self-discovery, and get to know themselves a whole lot better, including their preferences, pain points, fears, and dreams. The act of journaling also offers a host of psychological benefits, including helping young adults process emotions and reduce stress, making it a lifeline for those facing mental challenges.

Self-identity and emotional regulation is a common struggle for young adults and the World Health Organization (WHO) highlights the exploration of identity as a stress factor during adolescence. Regular journaling promotes self-reflection, leading to self-awareness. This heightened awareness helps individuals identify behavioral patterns, make informed decisions, and cultivate healthier habits. A 2024 WebMD article on the Mental Health Benefits of Journaling considers journaling an effective tool in helping individuals attain self-awareness, and regulate and control their emotions more effectively.

Journaling provides a safe, private space for expressing thoughts and feelings without judgement. Writing about experiences helps young adults process complex emotions and gain clarity, ultimately leading to better emotional health. This therapeutic act of writing is a cornerstone of BIC’s ‘Human Expression’ framework, encouraging joy in self-expression through writing.

Journaling also significantly reduces stress. Purdue University notes that journaling has long been a method to outwardly express thoughts and emotions and in this way, reducing stress and anxiety. Writing about stressful experiences helps organise thoughts and provides a sense of control – particularly beneficial for young adults facing academic and social pressures. Regular journaling helps mitigate stress and build resilience.

Additionally, journaling serves as a creative outlet for young adults exploring and discovering new things. It unlocks creative potential through poetry, sketches, brainstorming, or imaginative writing. An Edutopia survey argues that writing without an audience allows students to be bold and tap into their creativity and curiosity.

Writing by hand vs digital journaling

Despite the proliferation of digital tools and apps designed to facilitate journaling, the act of writing by hand offers unique benefits that digital journaling cannot replicate. One reason pen and paper writing still holds significant value is that it promotes physical connection. The tactile experience of writing by hand can enhance the emotional connection to words. This is because the physical act of writing slows down thought process and allows for deeper reflection and a more meaningful engagement with one’s thoughts and feelings. This physical connection can make the journaling process more impactful.

“Young adults need to prioritise a physical journal to fully immerse themselves in the benefits of journaling. High quality stationery enhances this experience and BIC’s range of products are great tools for creativity and capturing thoughts,” says Henderson.

The benefits of journaling with pen and paper are also directly related to how much it reduces the screen time of young adults, who spend a significant amount of time on screens for both academic and social purposes. Digital devices are rife with distractions, from social media notifications to email alerts. Taking a break from screens to journal can provide a much-needed respite from digital overload.

Ultimately, incorporating journaling into daily routines equips young adults to navigate modern life with greater resilience and mental clarity. Reducing screen time to embrace writing in a physical journal eliminates distractions, and allows for a more focused and uninterrupted journaling session which leads to more productive and meaningful writing. BIC’s durable and functional stationery products are perfect tools to support this beneficial practice.

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